From Around the Internet
The links I share here, as you might expect, reflect my interests. Yes, I read a lot of United Methodist bloggers and bloggers who are in the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition.
But, I read widely and I especially like to read Bible bloggers. I am always hoping to learn something new — to gain some fresh insight from someone’s study in the Scripture.
And, I like to mention blogs I find especially helpful and interesting.
One of my current favorite Bible bloggers is Timothy G. Gombis, who is Associate Professor of New Testament at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary (which is part of Cornerstone University). He is the author of The Drama of Ephesians: Participating in the Triumph of God and Paul: A Guide for the Perplexed. (Yes, he lives near me, but I do not personally know the man.) He blogs at: Faith Improvised and he always has something worthwhile to say.
Todays’ post is Paul’s Politics of Exile. Commenting on the implications of reading Romans 13:1-7 with a narrative approach, he says:
American evangelicals would do well to consider how Israel’s exile shaped Paul’s conception of the church—his vision of a weak and vulnerable wandering people among the nations. We feel that we’re losing power, influence, access, our former position of political leverage and cultural dominance. We grow worrisome, anxious, nervous about the sort of future our churches will face and the conditions our children will encounter. I’ll just suggest to you that this might be a strategic moment for us to embrace our identity as God’s wandering people among the nations. It just may be that this emerging moment of cultural weakness is God’s gift to his church. What if it’s an opportunity for the God revealed in the crucified Jesus to press his people into the shape of the cross? What if the Lord of the church is grieved when we strive for power and agitate to control the course of history? Do we risk being blind to Paul’s vision for the polis of Jesus because we’re overcome by cultural resentment fueled by memories of former days when our opinions held sway?
That quote appeared in a paper he delivered at the Wheaton Theology Conference. Be sure to read the rest of his post.
Our friend William Birch has begun a series entitled Perspective is King: part one was posted today and it is on Biblical Abuse — that is, the abuse of the term “biblical” to privilege one’s own views. He produces this nice quote from E. Randolph Richards & Brandon J. O'Brien in their book Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible:
There is no purely objective biblical interpretation. This is not postmodern relativism. We believe truth is truth. But there's no way around the fact that our cultural and historical contexts supply us with habits of mind that lead us to read the Bible differently than Christians in other cultural and historical contexts.
I’ve often thought that the use of the word “biblical” was commonly a way of cutting off any discussion or debate on a topic. When people say “This is the Biblical view” they just mean to say: “I’m not willing to discuss this.”
In fact there is no statement of a Biblical View which is not also an interpretation — no matter how much it has going for it.
The always-provocative Richard Beck has written two posts on the impossibility of Calvinistic Christian psychotherapy: I Don't Think Calvinists Can Be Therapists and More On the Impossibility of Calvinistic Christian Psychotherapy. He writes:
…Calvinistic anthropology denies [the] agentic capacity, [the] ability through your choices and changes to move toward God and a state of grace. And in denying that capacity it seems that a Calvinistic Christian psychotherapy is rendered logically impossible. A person cannot do anything to move, in a decisive way, into a state of grace. And without attaining that state of grace full psychological well-being cannot be achieved. The therapist and client must wait upon the saving action of God. The therapist can pray for the client, but she can't do therapy. At least not therapy that might produce rich and robust psychological outcomes.
I am sometimes accused of taking cheap shots at Calvinism — and sometimes I do — so I wonder about this one. What would a Calvinist say about that objection — or does this only relate to so-called hyper-Calvinists?
I really don’t know.
Strictly speaking, Wesleyans believe that free agency in salvation is the result of prevenient grace. So, God’s grace would be present in Christian therapy even if it weren’t acknowledged.
There is a fascinating article written by Elizabeth Drescher over at Religion Dispatches on Quitting Religion, But Not the Practice of Prayer. It seems that many of those who fall into the category of the “nones” (people with no religious preference) nonetheless practice prayer. And, some of those who are categorized as “atheist / agnostic” do.
As more and more people pull away from institutional religion, do public expressions of prayer have any real meaning in the wider world? Do they connect in any significant way to private, personal expressions of prayer? Does prayer matter at all?A majority of Americans still answer ‘yes’ to those questions. Close to 90 percent of those affiliated with religions report praying on a regular basis, and 40 percent of Nones in general say they pray with some frequency. Indeed, a plurality (17%) of those identified as “Atheist/Agnostic” by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life report that they pray. Among those who described their religious affiliation as “nothing in particular,” more than half say they pray regularly.
She goes on to say:
For the past two years, I have been exploring the spiritual lives of the religiously unaffiliated—listening to how Nones describe their own approaches to meaning-making, self-realization, or self-transcendence. For many of the Nones across the country who have participated in focus groups, narrative surveys, or interviews, prayer is the only spiritual practice associated with traditional religion that continues to have meaning their lives.
I have wondered for some time if it would not be worthwhile for me to try to teach community-based classes on Christian prayer, rather than attempting to teach them in church. Physically, I don’t know where I would hold such classes. But, the idea is to advertise through the classifieds, charge a nominal fee, and don’t hold them in a church. i would be upfront that I am teaching Christian prayer. And, then see who comes. I don’t know whether this is a viable idea or not. But, the article suggests that if just might. I wonder what would happen if churches began thinking this way? What if they asked themselves: how can we assist people outside the church with their spiritual lives. It might seem to some like a crazy question — but it isn’t.
Those without a church connection still look for connection to God — what can Christians do to assist them?
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